Did Airbus just offer us a glimpse of what passenger aircraft of the future will look like? The snazzy Maveric model unveiled by the European aircraft maker at the Singapore Airshow has quickened pulses, and for good reason. For decades on end, a plane has been a plane, the same old pointy-nosed tube with wings and a tailpiece. The supersonic Concorde, with its fused wing flaring back, tried to break the tedium but failed to achieve commercial success. With utilitarianism trumping aesthetics, we were condemned to fly in metallic contraptions that all looked alike, with minor differences of size.

The would-be mould breaker of Airbus, code-named the Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls (shortened to Maveric), looks a little like a flying stingray. This may or may not appeal to everyone, but at least it’s a dramatic breakaway from the usual. Not only does it blend its wings with the body, it promises to burn 20% less fuel, thanks to less aerodynamic drag, and reduce passenger claustrophobia with a relatively spacious cabin.

That we needed a disruptive new plane was beyond doubt. But will the Maveric fly? What is on display is a small model that would need to be scaled up for commercial use. In other words, the cabin design is still to be worked out. But a small version is good enough to test fly, apparently. Airbus has reportedly been conducting secret flight tests in France since last year, and if further flights prove satisfactory, it may want to enlarge it. We’d be waiting.

My Reads Logout